IDEA #7: When you must, be formidable

A FINAL big idea.

Sometimes, you need to be formidable. 

I’ve been on the ‘weaker’ side of many polarities over my life.

Born a female in a patriarchal farming family. Working as a woman in a male-saturated oil industry. When I joined my husband’s Lutheran church, a place where women can’t be faith leaders and couldn’t even vote when I first joined. Working in countries around the world where daughters were invisible.

I know that I have ‘white privilege’.

I am aware of it and at the same time I’ve experienced great frustration in the places where I am less privileged.  Acknowledging the diversity within yourself–and reconciling that– can be helpful as you move into the work of reconciling with others.

As explained, I’ve usually assumed some change leadership role from the edge of the inside of these places – my family, energy companies, the church, the communities where I lived, political parties. Gratefully, I can see the small wins and sustain some level of confidence to keep moving.

But not always.

2014 was one of those times when I was stopped in my tracks for a few months. When I chose to leave the Alberta Cabinet under the leadership of Alison Redford, and to sit as an Independent MLA. I understood my options. Had reflected on my choices. And knew I had to act, I had to step out.

There have been times when I’ve had no choice but to be formidable.

Because I couldn’t live with myself, otherwise.

I don’t do it often. And, sometimes I don’t even see it coming.

But as I get older, I’m recognizing the signs, the triggers. I can live with deniers, I deplore opportunists, but what really gets under my skin are the self-righteous. When I see someone taking advantage of others for their own gain, and especially in the name of ‘virtue’, my blood curdles.

When we ask if Margaret Atwood is a bad feminist because she believes in due process for men accused of sexual harassment, I get formidable.

The judgement, the disdain, the scorn. Looking down on those who live contrary to the values of the in-group. Twisted pride in distancing yourself from those you see as unenlightened.

One of my moments of greatest angst in the last two years was being treated as a victim of misogyny; by other women!

When I decided to run as leader of the PC Party in Alberta, then stepped away from the race for entirely rational reasons, I didn’t feel weak and I certainly didn’t feel like a victim.

But that’s how I was painted and people wouldn’t even talk to me about how I saw this situation. The media and women’s advocates had already decided. As they spoke for me, I felt powerless.

I see a bit of the same happening in the #MeToo movement.

Some women I mentor tell me they find the movement increasingly hard to identify with.  As it slides from a movement about supporting women who have been sexually exploited. As it shifts from the much needed conversation about consent and sexual responsibility. Into an uncomfortable territory that paints women as almost infantile. As victims, incapable of speaking up or saying no.

Painting a majority of men in our culture as toxically masculine. As potential abusers, harassers or serial predators.

These situations bring out the formidable in me.

IDEA #7: When you must, be formidable.


There you have it. 7 Ideas for Life: An Antidote to Polarity.

In the coming months and years, polarities will likely intensify – decide how you are going to approach that.

My suggestion to you? Step in, shoulders squared, heart and mind open, building bridges where possible, being creative and purposeful in your decision making. And, when needed, be willing to be formidable.

Thank you for caring enough to want to move beyond polarity.

If you enjoyed this series of blogs & accompanying podcasts, please share with others. And, let us know how these ideas worked for you.

When it comes to squaring off against divisive polarities, we all want to do better. We all need to do better.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS and if you haven’t already, please subscribe.

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Donna Kennedy-Glans, May 27th, 2018

See also:

7 Ideas for Life: An Antidote to Polarity

Idea # 1: Step up, shoulders squared.

Idea # 2: Treat YOU like the ones you teach. 

Idea #3: Befriend the like-hearted. 

Idea #4: Know where you lead from. 

Idea #5: Imagination builds bridges.

Idea #6: Decision-making is a precious power. 

2 thoughts on “IDEA #7: When you must, be formidable

  1. Great series Donna- thank you! You’ve given me both lots to think about and tools to act.

  2. Thanks for the very useful 7 check points to assess my own level of polarity on many important issues. I occasionally find my passion over certain beliefs takes me to extremes. Now I can self check with the set of tools you have given me.

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